LIVE: Sketches of Influence @ the Stockade Inn, 1/12/17
Review & photographs by Rudy Lu
A project led by Joe Barna is always a celebration of jazz. Especially a CD release party. The recent release party for his band Sketches of Influence’s Suite Lee was no different. Except the celebration was a celebration of the life and music of the late Lee Shaw.
Much of the money raised to produce the CD was crowdfunded using Kickstarter. The suite had its performance debut in November of 2015 at Lucas Confectionary in Troy. Being the perfectionist that Barna is, the piece was recorded several times – initially in 2016 during two days of live recordings at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy followed by some time recording in the studio. After much consideration, the live sessions were chosen to be pressed onto the disc.
All aspects of CD release performance had some relation to the spirit or performances of Lee Shaw. The Stockade Inn in Schenectady was selected as the site of the performance because this was the site of Shaw’s last residency. The compositions in the suite reflected her style. The young virtuoso Nick Hetko was chosen as the pianist as he was one of her students. At times, I wished there was a grand piano available for Hetko to play (as on the recording), but it should be remembered that Shaw’s final gigs were indeed played on electronic keyboards. And Hetko did make the keyboards sing nonetheless.
The Suite was played straight through with no interruptions as it is meant to be listened to as one continuous piece of music.
Five of the pieces were written right after Shaw’s death.
“Monk Lee” was written to portray Lee’s fondness for the playfulness of Thelonious Monk. The band certainly reflected this playfulness, and Hetko liberally sprinkled the piece with quotes from “Straight No Chaser.
“Because of You” musically conveyed the fact that Shaw’s music brought many people together, and the togetherness of the band’s performance clearly illustrated that.
“Three for Lee” refers to the 3/4 waltz time that Shaw was so fond of playing.
“Harmonious Lee” showcased the band’s ability to swing. The highlight of the tune was Adam Siegel’s alto duel with Hetko’s piano over the top of the rhythm section’s strong support.
“Ivory Romance” – the oldest piece, which appeared in Barna’s earlier Sketches of Influence album – is clearly now more formed and mature from repeated playing than when it first appeared seven years ago. Touching, almost pleading solos by Adam Siegel, John Menegon and Nick Hetko tugged at one’s heartstrings. Although it is about Lee’s romance with the piano, I can close my eyes and think about the bittersweet break up of a romance. This composition has the quality and feeling of “End of a Love Affair,” the Edward Redding ballad sung by Billie Holiday and many others. Or more contemporarily, Joe Zawinul’s “ A Remark You Made,” a composition on Weather Report’s breakthrough album Heavy Weather.
“Swift Lee” is a fast tune showcasing the virtuosity of the band; the alto playing of Adam Siegel is featured prominently along with Nick Hetko’s piano.
As with all Joe Barna gigs, the second set was essentially a jam session with many of the Capital District’s jazz musicians participating. Tim Coakley, Lou Smaldone, Tyler Giroux, Kevin Barcomb (the Refrigerators) and Kenny McCabe were among the many that sat in on the session.
An uplifting performance brings communities together. This is what the world needs now. We can certainly count on Barna to bring us more; he has many more original compositions to share with the world.
GO HERE to see more of Rudy Lu’s photographs of this concert…